One day during a speech Hakuin said, “They say there’s a pure land where everything is only mind, and that there’s a Buddha of light in your own body. Once that Buddha of light appears, mountains, rivers, earth, grass, trees, and forests suddenly glow with a great light. To see this, you have to look inside your own heart.”
An old innkeeper who had meditated for many years was sitting in the audience, and when she heard this, she felt a strange understanding of his words. She later told her family, “I feel that happiness is as near as my skin.” When she was awake and asleep she kept his words alive: “Inside your own heart. Trees shine with a great light.”
If the trees gave off a great light she couldn’t see it, but she soon began to feel a connection with things around her — a wooden rice bucket quivered with life. When she was a child she had a doll that was made just for her, and she believed that the doll danced at night. She could never catch it dancing, but it felt like whenever she looked at it, it had just stopped. Now the rice bucket felt the same way.
One day she was washing a pot when she completely forgot herself, forgot her chapped hands and wet clothes. There are dreams so deep that on waking, the dreamer can’t at first remember her name of where she is, or even what she is. It was like that for her: the pot, bowls, and even her own hands were utterly strange and new. The moment had no end, and she didn’t know which of her worlds was the dream.
She saw daylight coming out of the bottom of the pot and reasoned carefully to herself that this couldn’t be true. But when she looked around, the sunlight wasn’t only in the pot; the paper screens, the mat floor, the sound of a bell jingling outside, all were glowing with light. It was as if they had a song of their own, and that song was light. She began to laugh and couldn’t hold back the laughter.
Her laughter set her moving out of the kitchen at a run. She rushed to see Hakuin; she couldn’t wait to tell someone who understood! She found him sitting on some steps, looking at nothing in particular. The light was in him. She danced with joy. “Hey,” she shouted at him. “I’ve met Buddha in my own body, it’s fabulous! Everything shines with light.”
“Is that so,” Hakuin asked. “How about a pile of shit, does it also shine?”
This was her first challenge. She jumped up and down like a child. A test! A test! “Of course it does,” she knew, “and he pretends he doesn’t see.” She enjoyed Hakuin’s mind so much, she went up and slapped him in the face and said, “You still don’t get it, you old fart.” Her thoughts were not really her thoughts, they just appeared without her intending them. They formed themselves a little like this: “I see you, I see you. So, does my slap give off light?”
Hakuin roared with laughter.
(A story from a Zen book I can’t remember the name of right now.)